Of the top 10 high school football recruits from Indiana this year, only two decided to play at the state’s flagship university. One of them was a do-it-all athlete from suburban Indianapolis named Bryant Fitzgerald, who starred on both sides of the ball in high school and was slotted as a hybrid defensive back/linebacker for the Hoosiers this year. According to the Indianapolis Star, Fitzgerald had received ample praise from Indiana Coach Tom Allen and was likely to play as a freshman.

Except Fitzgerald won’t be playing or even practicing for Indiana this year, because the school’s athletic department compliance office gave him some shoddy advice that led the NCAA to rule him ineligible for the upcoming season.

Indiana freely admits this. According to a news release issued Saturday by the school, Fitzgerald’s ineligibility “was caused by a mistake by the Office of Compliance Services of the Indiana University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, which inaccurately advised him regarding his eligibility requirements.

“Had that mistake not occurred, Fitzgerald would have had ample time and opportunity to establish his eligibility. This was a mistake by the Department, not Fitzgerald and not the football program.”

Indiana’s athletic department has spent much of the month of August trying to make things right. Officials filed a waiver request Aug. 3 with the NCAA to restore Fitzgerald’s eligibility; it was denied 11 days later, according to the news release. That same day, the school filed an appeal of that decision; on Friday, the NCAA also denied that appeal.

“Bryant Fitzgerald is a smart, outstanding young man who is academically prepared and capable of being very successful at IU,” Athletic Director Fred Glass said in the statement. “His ineligibility is not his fault. It is ours. On behalf of myself and everyone associated with IU Athletics, I personally apologize to Bryant and his family for our mistake. While it was an isolated and unintended one, it is no less devastating to Bryant, and I could not feel worse about it. The process leading to the mistake has been fixed and redundancies added, and we are very confident nothing like this will ever happen again.”

Glass also called out the NCAA.

“I am very disappointed in the NCAA for not granting our waiver request nor our appeal,” he said. “Bryant should not have to bear the brunt of our mistake, and the NCAA could have, and should have, remedied that in the interest of this student’s well-being, who is in this situation through absolutely no fault of his own.”

Indiana would not reveal the root cause of Fitzgerald’s ineligibility, as that information is protected by academic privacy laws, but incoming NCAA athletes must complete 16 core courses, earn at least a 2.3 grade-point average and have a good-enough standardized test score to be fully eligible.

Fitzgerald will retain his full scholarship, the school announced, and likely will spend his season as a redshirt.

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